ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — Stefen Romero picked a good moment to do something that nobody had done in nearly 54 years of Tacoma professional baseball.
Romero snapped a tie with a grand slam in the seventh inning, leading the Rainiers to a 6-2 win over the Albuquerque Isotopes in the opener of an eight-game trip.
It was the third grand slam of the season for Romero. While more than 25 Tacoma players have hit two grand slams in a season, Romero became the first to hit three in a season.
Thursday’s slam was nearly a foul ball. Romero reached out and lifted a fly toward the right-field corner – the type of ball that appeared as if it was going to slice foul.
“I thought it was going to be foul,” said manager John Stearns, who watched from the third-base coach’s box. “We caught a big break. It hit the foul pole and bounced to the right, which means it hit the very edge of the pole.”
Romero did more than hit a grand slam. He previously singled home the tying run with two outs in fifth inning – all part of a 3-for-4, five RBI game.
Tacoma’s bullpen made the lead stand up.
Josh Kinney escaped a jam to work a scoreless sixth inning, and he earned the win when Romero homered in the top of the seventh.
Bobby LaFromboise and Logan Bawcom combined to set down the Isotopes in order in the final three innings.
Bawcom’s strategy to overcome the hitter-friendly elements was to simply not let them hit the ball. Bawcom struck out all four batters he faced, including the side in the ninth.
Andrew Carraway made the start for the Rainiers, showing improved results. After allowing 14 runs total over his previous two outings, Carraway gave up two runs through five innings and left the game with the score tied.
“Carraway battled his butt off for five innings,” Stearns said. “That was a big win for us. After we’ve been struggling for the last two weeks, hopefully we’ll springboard this into a few more victories.”
A late addition to the starting lineup, Abraham Almonte hit the second pitch of the game for a leadoff homer. He was supposed to get the day off, but an injury to Scott Savastano caused a last-minute lineup adjustment. The Rainiers are a player short of a full roster, and have played the past two games with just two extra position players. Utility man Leury Bonilla (knee) could be activated soon from the disabled list.
The second game of the series is scheduled for 6:05 p.m. (PDT) Friday. Tacoma will start Hector Noesi (3-1, 6.15 ERA) against Albuquerque’s Matt Magill (4-0, 2.34).Mike Curto is the radio broadcaster for the Tacoma Rainiers.